No workplace is perfect. You likely had no say in choosing who you were working with, and that means that sometimes coworkers get along like best friends, and sometimes they fight like cats and dogs. Not all personality and working styles mesh well together. I know I’ve had my fair share of coworker conflict–everything from genuine dislike of a person to misunderstandings over office politics and just personality conflict. Something I like to keep in mind is that these are people you work with. They don’t have to be your best friends. As long as you are able to get the job done and don’t feel like you’re losing your mind, that’s something. 

But obviously, coworker conflict is less than ideal. Whether it’s someone spreading gossip about you, someone talking down on you because of your age or experience, or someone who just doesn’t seem to like you,  no one likes coworker conflict, so here are six tips to help you deal with it, and hopefully overcome it. 

Avoid gossip

It can be really tempting to give into the gossip machine of many office environments and gossip about who is always late, who takes smoke breaks, who isn’t pulling their weight, et cetera. I know it’s tempting, but try to avoid it. Vent to your roommate or your Mom, but don’t gossip to other coworkers, not just because it’s unhelpful, but also because you never know who is going to tell someone else what you said, start gossip about you, or just make things worse. 

Don’t engage when you don’t have to

This has been the tip that has saved my sanity. Don’t engage with coworkers you don’t like, or can’t handle, when you don’t have to. Don’t volunteer to do things together if you know it’s going to stress you out. Say your hellos, your goodbyes, but focus on doing what you need to do during the day, and don’t engage with troublemakers unless you have to. Walk away, if that’s what you need to do. You don’t need to have a screaming fight in front of customers. You don’t have to discuss every qualm you have with each other, especially if it’s not productive. Just don’t engage when you don’t have to. It’ll save your sanity. 

Find common ground 

If you’re unable to disengage, or you simply don’t want to, find common ground with coworkers that you don’t mesh with. Compliment the outfit they’re wearing, if you like it. Ask them how their weekend was. Ask them if they have any Netflix recommendations. Find common ground, and avoid talking things that might cause even further tension–like politics. Even coworkers who I’ve clashed with have made me laugh with their jokes, recommended great books, and made for okay afternoon company in a quiet office. Finding common ground is a lot easier than choosing to fight about every little thing–you just have to pay a little more attention.

Document, document, document

If you truly have a coworker who is making your life miserable, who is holding the company back, or is discriminating against you in some way, document that. Keep a list of times and places, comments about you they make to you, et cetera. Don’t rely on hearsay. Document what you see happening. Save emails if you have to. Hopefully the situation will resolve, but if it doesn’t, this kind of documentation will help you talk to a third party and find a resolution.

Know when a third party needs to intervene

We can all think we have what it takes to solve coworker conflict, but sometimes,it’s bigger than us. When the fighting gets too much, when it starts to impact the work being done or your own mental health, it’s time to call in a third party, whether that’s a direct manager, the HR department, or a coworker. Have the third party speak to both sides, separately, and then together to try and find a way forward. Remember, you don’t have to be best friends, but the work still has to be done. If your concerns with a coworker might relate to them losing their job, I recommend talking to a manager about your concerns and focusing on the goals and ethics of the company instead of your own hurt feelings. 

Focus on your own growth

Coworker conflict can make work suck sometimes, I know. However, regardless of how you think it’s going to be resolved, you need to focus on your own growth. Let people put out their own fires. Grow where you are planted, do the best work you can grow, and work on making yourself a valuable asset. It’ll be a lot easier to forget about coworker conflict when you’re focused on your own work, expanding your portfolio, and attending trainings, webinars, and conferences that will help further your career. Plus, attending those trainings and conferences can help get you out of the office and away from a coworker you don’t like spending afternoons with. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member